Thursday, June 20, 2013

Video on Instagram: first impressions

Video on Instagram: first impressions

Video on Instagram: first impressions

Instagram today unveiled a chic cure to capturing and sharing videos through its iOS and Android mobile apps, one that will no doubt give Twitter pause as to what it wants to do next with Vine.

Called Video on Instagram, the feature is more nuanced than its GIF-y counterpart. The Twitter-owned, 6-second video taking Vine has its merits, but Instagram's take on video comes packing a few more features and lacking loops.

In videos lasting up to 15 seconds and no less than three, users can apply one of 13 filters, pick a cover photo and erase the last clip they take. Those extra nine seconds touch on what CEO and Co-Founder Kevin Systrom referred to as the Goldilocks moment: Not too short, not too long.

In a way, he's right, but at the end of the day there's only so much you can do with 15 seconds. On the flip side, there's also too much you can do, so whether Instagram has really hit on the social cinema sweet spot will be subject to the test of time and users' patience.

Instagram Video

How it works

Available in version 4.0.0, Video on Instagram only captures video on devices running Jelly Bean 4.1 and up, though any device can view the videos. iOS 5 and higher is required to take videos with an Apple product. Videos are also viewable on desktop.

Recording jumps off from the same block as taking a picture. Users hit the Instagram icon on the bottom of their screen, heading into the camera. However, now to the right of the blue camera button is a video camera icon. Clicking on this will take you to video mode, and a red button replaces the sapphire of simple image capture.

Erasing a clip

From here, users need just hold down the red dot to start recording, lifting their finger off when they want to stop. You can do this as many times as you like to create a video made up of as many clips, of any length, that you want. Lines demarcate where one clip ends and another begins, something Vine doesn't do.

Also unlike Vine, Instagram will let you erase the last clip you took. There's an "X" icon to the left of the record button that, when pressed, will turn red. A trashcan replaces the "X" and a press deletes the part you want to chuck.

After recording, users click the green Next button to get to another Insta-only f eature: filters.

You can switch between filters as your video plays, or view the entire roll through one lens. The filters range from Stinson to Moon to Maven, and while you may struggle to explain what is actually different between each and every one, some do add a heightened cinematic quality to what could be a very mundane video of you talking to your dog (not that we recorded such a thing).

Filters with Vine

Some photo-specific manipulations like flipping are gone, but we didn't miss them as we recorded today. We have no doubt Instagram has more filters and effects planned as time goes on, but 13 filters is plenty to start.

After hitting another Next button, users can choose a cover frame, or a shot from the video they want posted as its public face. The process involves literally flipbooking through each sh ot until finding the best/most interesting/whatever image you want your followers to see. Put another way, you're not stuck with a disorienting, out-of-context first frame plastered on your profile, news feed and social networks.

One final Next button will take you to the Share area, where you can add a caption choose a Photo Map, and pick to post on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or send via email. There's also a Foursquare button, but it wasn't functioning for us. We'll look into it and provide an update when we know what its deal is.

Filtered car black and white

Once in the Instagram news feed, videos are marked with a video camera icon to show they're not static images. You can press them to play, but if you linger over a video long enough (a matter of a second or two) the video will automatically start playing , just like in Vine. Scrolling away causes the video to stop.

As we mentioned earlier, Instagram videos don't loop like Vines but instead stop completely until you press play again. It actually felt like going from a tea party to a playground whenever we switched from Instagram to Vine.


One feature unique to iOS but that we were told "the team" is working to bring to Android is called Cinema, an image stabilization feature that's supposed to eliminate excess movement in your videos.

From the way Systrom told it, Cinema is a highly involved piece of technology that video scientists helped develop, yet while we noticed less instability in our videos, it's not the all-in-one fix it Instagram talked it up to be. Shakiness is noticeably reduced when it's on, to be sure, but not so much that we would completely miss it if it were off.

Cinema is automatically on, however, so you may never take an un-Cinematic iOS photo again. Oddl y enough, the Cinema icon (basically a camera with lines to express movement) didn't come up when we tested Video on Instagram at home.

Very early verdict

We truly enjoyed using Video on Instagram. It was, simply put, fun.

All the tools are there to make what amounts to a mini movie, especially with the ability to end a clip and jump to another scene, throwing a little more creativity in with the addition of a filter. Vine has the first part, but there's a sense of more control in Instagram's version.

Buffer on Vine

We experienced no lag times with Video on Instagram, by the way, whereas it took 30 seconds or more for Vine to render a video. It may be a case of the hardware we were using, but our buffer times were almost non-existent on Instagram.

As Systrom put it, the company didn't want to introduce a complex editing interface, and though it has more steps and more whistles than Vine, it really is as easy as photo editing tools come.

Vine is, at its root, elementary: record the video, caption the video, post the video. Though rudimentary, Vine has amassed 13 million users on iOS alone since launch, so it's certainly striking a cord for people.

People are making some remarkably creative and charming videos in six seconds, and Vine has promised to unveil new features very soon. Whether they'll rival what Instagram has brought forth, we'll wait and see, but Vine has some serious competition for amateur videographers out there.


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//PART 2